What to do if you’re at the beach and there is a local earthquake

If you’re at the beach in Hawaiʻi and you feel a big earthquake, it didn’t happen in California—it happened in Hawaiʻi. If it was a small earthquake, you don’t have to worry; those don’t generate tsunamis. But if the quake was big enough that you have trouble standing up, that’s big enough to produce a tsunami, and it’s time to start running.

For earthquakes generated in Alaska, your warning will come from the Civil Defense sirens, and you will have time to evacuate in an orderly way. But for locally generated earthquakes, the earthquake itself is the warning. You have only a matter of minutes to get to higher ground. Don’t worry about grabbing your swim fins and car and picnic basket—just get your family and start running as far inland and as high as you can go.

Two campers died at Halapē in 1975 because they were caught near the shoreline during the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that generated a huge local tsunami.

Video transcript:
0:01 Dr. Walter Dudley: We here in Hawaiʻi also create our own tsunamis
0:06 you know most tsunamis are created by
0:08 big earthquakes scattered around the rim
0:09 of the Pacific but here in Hawaii we
0:11 have our own earthquakes that are
0:12 capable of generating tsunamis
0:15 the last one occurred in 1975 and
0:19 was most devastating along the south coast
0:22 of the island just off where the earthquake
0:24 was centered and there were two casualties
0:26 at a place called Halapē — in the national park
0:28 Kevin Kodama: These size local earthquakes happen periodically
0:32 and they've happened before and they're
0:35 gonna happen again
0:38 in situations like that because the
0:39 tsunami happens so fast after the
0:40 earthquake we really have to pay
0:42 attention to local clues if you have a
0:43 strong if you feel a strong earthquake
0:45 and you're near the shoreline just head
0:48 head for the hills head to higher ground
0:49 immediately don't wait for the
0:51 evacuation notice to come in because
0:54 it's going to be too late
0:55 Walter Dudley: In Halapē
0:56 1975 there was less than five minutes
0:58 from the time of the earthquake to when
1:01 the huge waves came ashore
1:04 if you feel an earthquake that's large
1:08 enough that you have trouble standing up
1:10 and that's big enough to have created a tsunami
1:14 five at the beach and I feel an
1:16 earthquake I'm not gonna wait around to
1:18 pick up my body board and my
1:20 fins I'm just gonna head I'm gonna grab
1:22 my kids into high ground immediately

Visit our tsunami gallery.

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